Aspen is an intermediate skier’s dream. If you were to combine all of the intermediate terrain across the four mountains, you’d find that intermediate terrain compromises the vast majority of Aspen skiing. Aspen Mountain’s intermediate terrain accounts for 48 percent, while Aspen Highlands has 30 percent, Buttermilk has 39 percent and Snowmass 47 percent. With world-class grooming capabilities at all four mountains, you can bet that the Aspen intermediate groomers are bar none.
While Aspen Mountain, or as the locals call it, Ajax, is renowned for its steeps and endless moguls—which it has plenty of—it also has groomers that last for miles. The suggested route would be to stick to the looker’s right side of the mountain. From the top of Silver Queen Gondola, take any of the fun cruisers to Chair 3, Ajax Express. You can lap Chair 3 all day and get tons of skiing in, or opt to take up the smaller double chair, located below Chair 3, FIS or Chair 6, and head down Ruthie’s for one of Aspen’s best groomers. For longer, intermediate groomers you can ski Ajax’s 3,267 vertical feet from either Copper or Spar Gulch all the way back down to the Silver Queen Gondola. These are great sustained cruisers, but they do get a lot of skier traffic so be sure to stay aware of your surroundings.
If you venture to Aspen Highlands be sure to arch some big turns on the monstrously wide Thunderbowl. There’s also a ton of great blue square terrain off Loge Express and Cloud Nine Express. Not all of these trails are groomed every day, but the slope is relatively gentle and the trails are short, making for great mogul learning.
Buttermilk’s Tiehack is where intermediate skiers want to go. Buckskin is a perfect, sustained groomer, and a ride on Tiehack Express yields incredible views of Aspen Highlands and the famed Pyramid Peak. If you only have one day to ski at Snowmass, head straight to Elk Camp lift via the Elk Camp Gondola, there are tons of rolling intermediate runs off this lift and the views of the Maroon Bells from the top are stunning. Or, head straight to the Big Burn lift, where you’ll find a nice mix of glades, groomed and ungroomed intermediate terrain ideal for testing out new skills.
A complimentary Aspen Mountain tour is highly recommended, for a couple reasons. First, the simple geography of the mountain. Aspen Mountain is comprised of three ridges, in the middle you’ll find Bell, flanked by Gentlemen’s Ridge and The Dumps, at the base of these ridges are two gulches—Copper and Spar—which funnel skiers from the ridges down to the base area. Secondly, these are high traffic zones. While the majority of Aspen Mountain’s terrain is designated as “intermediate” the ski area is considered an expert skier’s stomping ground. You may find that despite slow signs a lot of the on-hill skiers are zooming by at jaw-dropping speeds, especially in these high traffic, funnel zones. A mountain tour will help identify these areas so you can avoid them or be adequately prepared.
As aforementioned Aspen Mountain has several faces to ski via the three ridges. If it’s not snowing in Colorado, it’s mild and very sunny, so it’s good to know where the sun hits certain parts of Aspen Mountain, so you can chase the best conditions all over the mountain throughout the day.
There are few places, save for Jackson Hole and Crested Butte and perhaps a few others, that revel in leg burning, heart pumping, non-stop top-to-bottom expert skiing the way Aspenites do. The locals have a penchant for pain, with a large population of endurance athletes, and a storied reputation of being extreme. Let’s not forget that this is where the 80s cult ski movie Aspen Extreme was filmed, and in fact most of the film’s stars still live and ski there. And while expert skiers and those with a passion for ski history will love what Ajax offers, beginners and intermediates have thousands upon thousands of acres of skiing to choose from between Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
With Aspen Mountain’s three ridges to choose from: Face and Back of Bell, The Dumps and Gentleman’s Ridge the difficulty isn’t just in the terrain, but choosing where to ski. A good rule of thumb is to follow the sun. Back of Bell and The Dumps are often good earlier in the day, while Face of Bell and Gentleman’s Ridge ski better with the late-day sun. All of these expert areas feature glades, moguls and variable snow conditions.
For a truly extreme Aspen experience and bragging rights, a hike, or two, up the famed Aspen Highlands Bowl is an absolute must. While the hike is long and steep— it takes most Aspen visitors about one hour—the reward is worth it and then some. Not only are the views the best “The Power of Four” have to offer, but the wide-open bowl skiing is like no other. The best lines are from the “G’s,” so be sure to make the hike to Bowl’s summit and the snake along the ridge towards the trees on skier’s right. From here you can head towards well-spaced, steep glades, and small powder fields in G-2 through 5, or head straight down the fall line on G-8.
Despite its reputation as a family mountain, Snowmass has epic, expert terrain, most notably in the Cirque and Hanging Valley Headwall areas. The areas feature cliffs, pillows, powder fields and glades.
To get a good feel for all the expert and extreme terrain Aspen/Snowmass has to offer, consider signing up for the three-day Black Diamond Expedition. The clinic starts at Snowmass and provides options to ski at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands the following days.
While Aspen Mountain, the ski area that rises from the town of Aspen, isn’t an ideal area for beginner skiers, Buttermilk, just three miles down the road, is perfect. Aspen/Snowmass’ four mountains, or “Power of Four,” allows every type of skier to find their ideal terrain. Most beginner skiers in Aspen will find that they prefer the shorter, rolling slopes of Buttermilk, or beginner “learn to ski” zones at Snowmass.
Buttermilk comes highly recommended as an ideal “learn to ski” area. First timers should start out at the main Buttermilk base area. There you’ll find rentals, ski school, and a magic carpet and beginner chair lift. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll want to head up the Summit Express lift, and meander down Homestead Road back to the main base area, or head to West Buttermilk, where you’ll find several shorter beginner trails, like Larkspur or Westward Ho, that allow you to give your legs a rest. For a change of scenery, beginners can also ski to the Tiehack Express lift via the Oregon Trail.
Snowmass also features some of Aspen’s best beginner terrain, thanks to its two designated “learn to ski” areas, Assay Hill and Fanny Hill. Aspen Highlands also has several beginner trails off of Expedition Lift, but be sure to stay on Park Avenue on your descent back down to the base area.
Of the “Power of Four,” Buttermilk and Snowmass are the best for beginners, as they have exceptional facilities for both children and adults to learn. Beginner skiers have the option of group or privates lessons. Snowmass’ Elk Camp fosters a comfortable environment for adults to learn and the Elk Camp gondola allows them to get up on the mountain, so they don’t feel like they’re learning to ski with the toddlers. Snowmass also offers the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure, which is an ideal spot especially for beginner kids. This state-of-the-art facility houses a day care and playground, making ski school extra fun. Buttermilk has the Panda House, which also provides day care and a playroom for the youngsters. Wherever you take a lesson at Aspen/Snowmass, you’ll be coached by a professional, friendly, patient instructor, who knows how to share their love of Aspen and passion for skiing while teaching you the fundamentals, so you, too, can enjoy all the mountains have to offer.
Aspen is consistently ranked in ski magazines as having the best ski town nightlife, and for good reason. Party-goers and night hawks have a plethora of unique options, from a casual mixology cocktail or glass of wine or Aspen-made brews to rowdy drinks to match rowdy music, or quick shots in between live music sets at the famed Belly Up Aspen concert venue. There’s a beverage and a scene for every after hours preference in Aspen.
If your evening activities trend towards casual, relaxed and perhaps a little more quiet, then a cocktail− or two− at Justice Snow’s is in order. The establishment, located on the corner of Mill Street and Hyman, next to the Wheeler Opera House, offers a great dinner menu, but the handmade love and care that each mixologist puts into every signature cocktail is what makes this spot a great night time hang out. The Moscow Mule, served properly in a brass mug, is a local favorite, and if you’re looking for cocktail that will stir your taste buds, heat things up with the Mate Picante, a spicy, freshly muddled concoction. The mixologists also make traditional prohibitionist-era cocktails, like an old-fashioned or a Manhattan.
To mingle with locals and satiate a hankering for strong, locally-made beers head to the Aspen Brewing Company’s Tasting Room on the corner of Hopkins and Monarch Street. Walk up the stairs and inside you’ll likely find live music or a classic ski, snowboard, surf or skate film playing, an assortment of dogs, and their owners with brews in hand. The atmosphere is extremely laid back, but be sure to take this beer seriously. They’re seriously strong, so watch your intake. The Independence Pass Ale (IPA) is among the strongest, but there’s often small batch brews on tap that surpass even the IPA’s 8-percent alcohol content level.
If you’re looking to really let loose, head to one of Aspen’s late night hotspots: Escobar, Eric’s or The Regal. You’ll find a hopping dance party at all three. Eric’s also has a billiards and cigar room, making it a great option for a group who is undecided on their party style. The wild child’s can cut up the rug near the downstairs DJ stand, while the mellower folks can catch up over a game of pool upstairs.
Music heavy weights from all over the world make a pit stop in to perform at Belly Up Aspen. The Belly Up has seen everything from classic acts like BB King, ZZ Top and Lynrd Skynrd to contemporary bands like Thievery Corporation, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Bassnectar, Damien Marley and Nas. Be sure to check the concert calendar online and purchase tickets in advance so you can see your musical heroes perform during your Aspen ski vacation.
This storied ski town, and historic mining boom town, is brimming with incredible accommodations that provide experiences and views that are truly unique to Aspen. Most in-town Aspen lodging options generally trend towards the pricey and plush, like the AAA, five-diamond Little Nell. "The Nell" offers an incredible off-mountain experience, from picture perfect patio après-ski sessions to five-star meals, but the convenience of having nearby, reasonably priced properties in the Snowmass area make an Aspen ski vacation possible for nearly every budget and preference.
For affordable accommodations that offer convenience and amenities guaranteed to please everyone on your Aspen ski vacation consider a stay at the Molly Gibson Lodge, on Main Street, or Limelight Hotel, on Monarch Street. The Molly Gibson provides guests with a central Main Street locale, making it easy to get around whether via the bus or on foot. The Molly Gibson is just a few blocks from the slopes and Aspen’s best restaurants and shops. The lodge features a complimentary continental breakfast, outdoor pool and hot tub and a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport. The Limelight Hotel is conveniently situated just across from Wagner Park, a rugby field by summer, and main stage of the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, and dog park by winter. So the fact that The Limelight is dog-friendly makes it a convenient hotel for fido too. The Limelight Lounge offers guests a cozy fireplace and comfy chairs, perfect for curling up next to with a glass of wine in hand after a satisfying day on the slopes. The Limelight also has an outdoor pool and soothing hot tub.
If your lodging tastes drift towards upmarket experiences and prices, then The Little Nell should be top-of-mind. No accommodations in Aspen can compete with The Little Nell’s location. “The Nell” shares The Silver Queen Gondola’s patio via its lunch hotspot Ajax Tavern. And location is just one aspect of what makes The Nell an exclusive, top-notch lodging experience. From its plush rooms and suites to its award-winning new restaurant, Element 47, to its immaculate room service and friendly concierges, a stay at The Nell is beyond exceptional.
Walking around historic downtown Aspen is a great experience in itself. The town is a beautiful collection of Victorian-era buildings and houses with modern touches. Take it all in on the two walking malls that run parallel to each other, one on Cooper Avenue and one on Hyman Avenue. Here you’ll find a babbling brook, park benches and tons of world-class boutiques, shops and restaurants. Be sure to walk around this area at night in the winter, as the city of Aspen does an exceptional job decorating every single tree with Christmas lights. The lights stay up all winter long and look absolutely spectacular, especially when blanketed in fresh snow. Everyone will feel like a kid walking around the streets of Aspen.
History buffs will appreciate learning about the city’s rich mining past on one of the Aspen Historical Society’s walking tours. Or, you can take a horse and carriage ride around town and experience Aspen the same way miners did. There are two ice skating rinks, the Ice Garden and CP Burger’s rink across from the Hyatt. CP Burger’s rink is recommended for families as they offer ice skate rentals and learn-to-skate walker rentals.
From the top of Aspen Mountain, adventure seekers can take a Powder Tour. A snowcat whisks you and your guide to untracked powder stashes on the backside of the resort. The tour includes a gourmet lunch. On the mountain you’ll find NASTAR race courses, a naturalist-guided ski or snowboard tour, and snowshoe tours. If you’d like to get your blood pumping before a day of skiing head to the top of Aspen Mountain and take Yoga for Skiers class in Sundeck Lodge. It’s a great way to start your day.
If you’d like to explore the Aspen area's 60 miles of cross-country trail visit the Aspen Nordic Center, at the Aspen Golf Course. Here you can learn more about the trails and the rent Nordic skis.
The word luxury and Aspen are somewhat synonymous; it’s no secret that Aspen has an abundance of “the finer things in life,” from its incredible views, multi-million dollar second (or third) homes, an excess of fine-dining options, high-end art galleries, designer shopping and luxury hotels. Aspen attracts a certain type of vacationer, someone looking for an exclusive experience, and its abundance of luxury hotels make this an easy task.
The Little Nell will cater to your every whim and your beloved pooches too, if you’d like to bring your furry friend along. The Little Nell offers its guests not only an exceptional location—slopeside or just a couple yards from Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola—but world-class dining experiences, at Element 47 and Ajax Tavern, full-service concierge, courtesy shuttles to restaurants and the airport, a heated outdoor pool and outdoor covered hot tub. Canine guests even have their own menu to choose from. Everything about this renowned Aspen hotel is world-class.
The St. Regis Aspen Resort also offers an incredibly convenient locale. The hotel is situated between two of the mountain’s base area lifts, and offers easy access to Aspen’s renowned shopping and dining. The St. Regis houses The Chef’s Club, a unique collaboration between Food and Wine Magazine and the St. Regis’ world-famous chefs. It’s a meal you won’t want to miss during your Aspen ski vacation. The St. Regis also provides guests with relaxing amenities like an indoor and outdoor hot tub, a heated outdoor pool, and full-service spa. Every St. Regis room, suite or residence provides its visitors with state-of-the-art entertainment technology.
Hotel Jerome is an ideal property for a vacationer looking for high end conveniences and modern touches in a historical setting. This historical gem dates back to late 1880s and was the first building west of the Mississippi to have electricity. It’s famed J-Bar served as a favorite watering hole and hangout for writer Hunter S. Thompson. The Jerome received significant renovations in the Fall of 2012, including room redesigns and a revamped lounge, The Living Room, and J-Bar.
With so many acclaimed fine-dining restaurants in Aspen, the task of narrowing down your options can be a harrowing one. If you’re looking for a stellar wine list, head to the Little Nell’s newly revamped and refurbished Element 47. For celeb-sightings and sushi, make a reservation (highly recommended) at Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurant, Matsuhisa. “Matsu” as the locals call it, is an extraordinary culinary experience, as the menu, like other proprietary Nobu restaurants, features both traditional Japanese fare, as well as his famed “fusion” plates. Don’t miss the limestone black cod with lettuce wraps. While most sushi enthusiasts prefer sake or beer, Matsuhisa’s sommelier also does an excellent job selecting wines that pair with Japanese flavors.
Pinion’s is another popular Aspen fine-dining institution, serving up pristine European and modern American bistro creations. The St. Regis’ Chef’s Club provides a uniquely Aspen experience. The St. Regis Aspen Resort partnered with Food & Wine Magazine to create this innovative new restaurant. Foodies will love the contemporary American menu and the memorable wine list.
It’s no secret that Aspen is the rich and famous’ playground and few things come on the cheap. But that said, planning and a little research can help you save some of your hard earned money while still enjoying the Aspen experience. Ski.com is here to offer you some money saving tips on your Aspen budget ski vacation.
Molly Gibson Lodge offers a convenient locale at an affordable rate, and with all the comforts of home to boot. Molly Gibson sits right off Main Street and is a short walk or shuttle to the slopes at an affordable rate. The cozy lodge is pet friendly so your best furry friend can come along. Just across Main Street you’ll find Hotel Aspen, which offers guests relaxing amenities like an outdoor hot tub and pool. Every afternoon in the winter Hotel Aspen hosts a complimentary wine and cheese party around the common room fireplace. Independence Square is ideal for visitors looking to be in the thick of downtown Aspen for a reasonable rate. This modern hotel is housed in a historic building and is less than 250 yards from the Silver Queen Gondola. You’ll be smiling ear-to-ear while you soak in the Square’s rooftop hot tub and take in the views of the mountains, knowing you’re getting a bargain.
The overwhelming majority of Aspen’s 100 restaurants average at $31 to $50 an entrée. But a strong local culture ensures that there are options that offer cheap, tasty eats. For pizza, you’ll want to head to New York Pizza, located on the Hyman Street walking mall, or Taster’s, located next to the Aspen/Snowmass Tourism office on Mill Street and in Snowmass. Ryno’s also features pizza pies, pints and an arcade, making it a good option for families. For affordable pub food try out Finn Bar or Zane’s, and for Mexican head to Su Casa, La Palapa or Zocalito’s. If you’re looking for a nicer meal with reasonable prices, Ajax Tavern, located at the base of Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola, will surely please. They feature gourmet burgers and sandwiches, healthy salads, soups and raw options like oysters and mussels. Lunch is the best time to dine at Ajax Tavern. On a sunny day, the Tavern’s patio becomes a hot spot from about noon to nearly 5 p.m., so post up with a glass of wine or a locally brewed draft (under $5) and take in the scene.
No matter when you visit you can usually find a couple free activities to participate in. Both Aspen/Snowmass and the town of Aspen host tons of events from Winterskol in early January—an annual winter festival that features a soup tasting contest and ice sculptures—to the Spring Jam free concert series.
With four different mountains to choose from, an incredible array of hotel and dining options, and a packed list of year-round events and concerts, everyone on an Aspen family ski vacation will be pleased. Kids and parents, alike will love bopping around historical downtown Aspen, and learning about this mining era’s rich past. There’s a mind-boggling amount of things to do and experience on an Aspen family ski vacation, and it’s all conveniently located within a couple blocks.
Buttermilk and Snowmass, and the bottom half of Aspen Highlands are world-class areas options for beginner to intermediate families, while advanced to expert families can rip up the famed-steeps of Aspen Mountain together. The whole family can pretend they’re stars in the cult classic movie Aspen Extreme. Hopeful jibbers will also enjoy checking out the X Games slopestyle course and half pipe at the base of Buttermilk. Families can easily hop from resort to resort thanks to Aspen Snowmass convenient, and complimentary, bus. This takes a lot of guess work out of a vacation for parents, ensuring that everyone in the family has an enjoyable Aspen family ski trip.
The Limelight Hotel is just two blocks from the slopes, and offers families all the comforts of home from a cozy lobby fireplace and sitting area to a relaxing pool and hot tub. Year-round, the Limelight hosts family-friendly events and activities. Even the family dog is welcome to at The Limelight. For a relaxed and inviting atmosphere during your Aspen family ski vacation, the Molly Gibson is a top-of-mind choice. This hotel is centrally located on Main Street, just a few blocks from the slopes, and a short walk distance from Aspen’s world-class shopping and dining scene. Molly Gibson has a pool and hot tub for the whole family’s enjoyment. And if you can’t bare to part with pooch, Molly Gibson is happy to host canine family members too.
With nearly 100 restaurants to choose from, the Aspen family dining options offer something for even the pickiest of eaters. From New York Pizza to Mexican at Su Casa, both located on Hyman Street, to comfort food, like mac-n-cheese at Jimmy’s, on Hopkins Avenue, to burgers and fries at Ajax Tavern, families on an Aspen ski vacation will easily find fare that fits their preferences.
The best place for kids—ages two and a half to 17—to learn to ski during an Aspen family ski vacation is at Buttermilk or Snowmass, as there are kid-friendly facilities, such as the Panda House at Buttermilk at the Treehouse Kids’ Adventures Center in Snowmass. Children will also appreciate mascots like Wooly and Powder Panda; ski instructors foster a fun atmosphere and lesson plan tailored to engage kids, so they can truly learn the skills to help them develop into better skiers. Buttermilk, and Snowmass, feature progressive terrain parks designed for beginners to experts. Intermediate to advanced teens can sign up for a three-day terrain park and pipe camp on Buttermilk’s famed X Games course.
As a culinary mecca and home to the annual Food and Wine Classic, you can bet the Aspen dining scene packs a world-class punch. Foodies can find international fusion dishes, classic European fare, local game, modern American bistro-style cuisine, as well as Asian-inspired eats and even fresh seafood. The options sway towards high-end flavors and prices, but affordable, family-friendly options are there if you know where to look.
While the choices seem endless—with 100 restaurants in a town that is home to about 7,000 year-round residents—there are several don’t miss Aspen restaurants. BB’s Kitchen is a great option for a group or family with varying tastes, the menu ranges from modern American to Asian and European-fusion food, the cocktails are good, the service is friendly and you have nice views of the bustling Cooper Avenue sidewalks below. Ajax Tavern at the base of the Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola, will also please any palate, with classic European and American options, like burgers, truffle fries, pate and oysters, to name a few.
Head to Kenichi if you’re looking for some Asian-persuasion. This sushi joint offers a cool, hip atmosphere and great cocktails. Be sure to try the saketini, with fresh ginger, cucumber, vodka and sake. World famous Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurant, which is housed in an original mining-era home, is indelibly an Aspen staple you don’t want to miss. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities. Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Owen Wilson, Antonio Banderas and Chelsea Handler have been spotted there in recent years. While menu items are pricey, the quality is unrivaled, as fresh seafood deliveries arrive four times a week. For a more relaxed atmosphere and menu, head to Jimmy’s. You’ll find a lot of locals hanging out, and for good reason. The drinks are strong and the menu offers tasty comfort food items, like the jalapeno mac-n-cheese.
If you’re a foodie that likes a meal with a view, then Aspen has some great offerings. Aspen Mountain’s Sun Deck has incredible 360-degree views of the Elk Mountains and adjacent Aspen Highlands, and although the lodge features cafeteria style food, items like exhibition-style stir-fry and fresh made pizza make you forget. Lunch or breakfast at Bonnie’s is an absolute must. This storied restaurant, and many of its original recipes, have stood the test of the time. From its original architecture and deck to its famed apple strudel, to homemade pizza crust, hearty and out- of- this-world pancakes and white bean, Bonnie’s is an all-time Ajax dining spot. At Aspen Highlands you must make a reservation for lunch at the famed Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: the views of the Maroon Bells are epic, the deck is hopping on a sunny day, world-class vintages and champagne are flowing and the classic European alpine food is to die for. Don’t miss the elk stroganoff or the fondue.